May 3, 2012

Writing for Kids from a Faith-Based Perspective

by Patrick E. Craig

Writing for kids from a moral worldview can be one of the most challenging tasks a writer will ever face. When we write as Christians it is important to find a way to present truth to them that draws them in and engages them without blasting them. To do this I try to develop characters that let God work in them and through them to show other characters the love of God. If you are writing for kids, it goes even deeper. Kids don't read preaching, they read stories. In order for a child to get the message you have to engage them with a fascinating story. That means you have to drop the pastoral pontifications and doctrinal pronouncements and develop storylines that draw them in.

In my book, "The Lost Coast", Punkin, Boo, and Megan have been hidden in a cave by their guardian angel, Michael. Megan has been wounded by demons so Michael prays for Megan and her arm is healed. God touches Megan's heart and the girls are able to ask the question, "Why should God let you into heaven?" Our libraries and bookstores are filled with vampires, zombies, werewolves, wizards and all kinds of powerful supernatural creatures. So warrior angels and demons are perfectly acceptable to kids. By the time the girls get to the salvation message, it is easy to tell Megan what the bible says:  The only way to be really protected from evil spirits is to place your trust in Jesus Christ – and Megan does.

Another thing - kids need to be pushed. I've always loved words – big words, strong words, complex words. I once had a mother thank me for not dumbing down my books, even though her son was only nine. Another grandmother told me that her fourteen year old grandson, who never reads, sat down and read my book straight through because the language challenged him. When you are writing for kids don't be afraid to confront them with words they have to wrestle with. Kids like to know that you think they are up to challenges and they respond to your trust. That really applies when you are writing for them.

Make your books real. In a Christian adventure, don't be afraid to deal with the consequences of sin. I resurrected a terrible villain in the second draft of "The Lost Coast" because I didn't want to offend the sensibilities of my tender readers. A friend read the rewrite and e-mailed me a curt message:  "What is this, a camp-meeting? Not everyone gets saved you know." So I killed him again in the third draft and my readers loved it.

And finally, develop characters that can be examples while learning from their mistakes. Kids need to identify with kids that are like them – they stumble and fall, but with the help of God, they get up and go on.  

Patrick E. Craig is a lifelong writer and musician who left a successful songwriting and performance career in the music industry to follow Christ in 1984. He spent the next twenty-six years as a worship leader, seminar speaker and pastor in churches, and at retreats, seminars and conferences all across the Western United States. After ministering for a number of years in music and worship to a circuit of small churches in Northern California, he is now concentrating on writing and publishing both fiction and non-fiction books. He has recently signed a three book deal with Harvest House Publishers to publish his "Apple Creek Dreams" series. The books are historical Amish fiction and the first book, "A Quilt for Jenna," will be released January 1, 2013. Patrick is represented by the Steve Laube Agency. 

Connect with Patrick online at Facebook, Twitter, his blog or his website!

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